Margaret Morganroth Gullette Provides Painting for the Maintenance Garage

The Brandeis Maintenance Garage may seem out of the way to some, located as it is not far from the train station, but for the members of the Women’s Studies Research Center, Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, and the employees of Grounds and Vehicles,  it is a building they see every day. On November 8, 2016, a colorful mural was installed on a public side of the Garage. 

In the summer of 2015, a group of Scholars offered to design and make a garden along the side of the building that faces the public. Dennis V. Finn, Jr., Supervisor of Grounds and Vehicles, agreed. After the delivery of compost-rich soil, the group of WSRC members, which included Linda Bond, Ornit Barkai, Rosi Rosenzweig, Karin Rosenthal, and Margaret Morganroth Gullette, provided trees—birches, a mimosa, a cut-leaf red maple—shrubs, including a hydrangea; perennials, annuals,  ground-cover, and a trellis for vines. This garden is part of the WSRC’s ecological vision, led by Dr. Shulamit Reinharz, Founding Director.

Now Margaret M. Gullette, who has been seen weeding and watering, has painted a mural, a work of public art, to fill a blank space overlooking the new Garden. “This large mural, almost 4 feet by 4 feet, shows a rural scene in mountains, with a couple walking down a road in the moonlight,” Gullette says. “I copied it from a small Nicaraguan oil painting that I own, by the late Martin Rojas, of Masaya, Nicaragua. It’s interesting to copy something—it teaches you a lot about what the artist accomplished. This is an idealized rural scene. It’s a Central American night: the moon is huge and sky is so full of stars that everything is illuminated. What Rojas loved best was the light on the flowering trees—all the trees are flowering, imagine! The church is starkly white, and some of the houses have a bluish-lavender cast. It was delightful to try to match the colors, in latex, and learn to admire what the painter loved. I had to enlarge it sixteen times to fill the space."  

“The hills and the road up and down through the hills, are quite fantastically rolling, like Botero bellies. Rojas’ scene reminds me of 1930’s American painting--Thomas Hart Benton but serene. Rojas is a “primitive,” like the Solentiname artists of Nicaragua. There’s true realism in their style. I also love Kangra [India] paintings of night scenes, and I go to Nicaragua ever year. When my husband and I walk around at night, it’s really true they have more stars than we do in the North.”

Gullette says, “I’m an enthralled amateur. I mostly do pen-and-ink drawings. But last summer I was finishing a book and needed something to do on vacation without my computer. I got some help from my grand-daughter, Vega Violet, and my friend Connie Wilson Higginson.

Margaret M. Gullette goes to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, annually to monitor a Free High School for Adults that she co-founded with a Nicaraguan friend, a doctor and educator, who served recently as the mayor. As of December 2016 the Free HS will have graduated 1001 people since 2002. Gullette is also the author of four nonfiction books in cultural studies of age, several prize-winning. The next, Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People, will be published by Rutgers UP (Summer 2017) in the series, Global Perspectives on Aging, edited by Prof. Sarah Lamb of Brandeis’ Anthropology Department. Gullette has been a Scholar at the WSRC since 1998 and has published three other books since she arrived.

Some of the Grounds and Vehicles workers are gardeners, and enjoy the Garden transformation. The plaque on the wall commemorating the effort was made by Linda Bond, a WSRC Scholar, artist and activist. Gullette says, “I hope they all like it. Dennis Finn has been perpetually helpful and thoughtful from the beginning of the Garden project.”


For more information, call Margaret M. Gullette, 617-965-2164.